Julian Assange’s family asks Anthony Albanese to intervene before US extradition

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<p><figcaption class=Photography: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Julian Assange’s family said the Albanian government needs to intervene in the case before he is extradited to the US, saying it would effectively be a “death sentence” for the WikiLeaks founder if there was no intervention.

The plight of Assange, who is being held in Belmarsh Prison in the UK awaiting an appeal against his extradition to the US, was raised with the new US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy by Assange’s Australian lawyer Stephen Kenny.

Attending Parliament on Wednesday, Assange’s father John Shipton and brother Gabriel Shipton raised concerns that little progress had been made since the May elections and urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to make the “non-negotiable” issue. with the USA.

The family expressed frustration at not being able to secure a meeting with Albanese, Foreign Minister Penny Wong or Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, despite requests.

Related: Julian Assange: What is Australia’s position on her extradition and what options does she have?

Since the election, Albanese has said the government intends to take the issue diplomatically, saying “not all foreign relations are better done with the megaphone”.

Gabriel Shipton said he was initially encouraged by Albanese’s remarks as opposition leader that “enough is enough” regarding Assange’s incarceration, but was frustrated by the lack of progress since the election.

“It’s been months since he said these things and made the statement that enough is enough, but when enough is enough?” he said. “Julian is still in prison. He’s been there for three years and he’s not a convicted felon.

“They could pick up the phone and call Joe Biden and make him non-negotiable.

“We are strategically vital to the US right now, they need our resources, if it were non-negotiable, Julian would be here tomorrow.”

Supporters raised concern about a brief government report sent to Dreyfus about the case, which said that “if surrendered, convicted and sentenced in the US, Assange could apply under the ITP [international transfer of prisoners] scheme to serve his sentence in Australia’”.

But sources stressed that this document did not indicate that the transfer of prisoners was the government’s preferred strategy, saying it only outlined the conditions for such a process.

Josh Shipton in front of a blank wall in the Houses of Parliament, a hallway to your right is lined with domes of light

John Shipton said the prospect of further delaying Assange’s help was “ridiculous”. Photography: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

John Shipton, Assange’s 77-year-old father who is leading the campaign to bring Assange back to Australia, described the possibility of delaying intervention until Assange is tried and convicted in the US as “grotesque”. He said the process would take many years and could result in Assange being detained for more than 20 years since the publication of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks in 2010.

He said the Americans “stole all the papers from the court and people tell us ‘put Julian in his hands, he’ll be safe’, it’s ridiculous, it’s grotesque.”

“It’s the most viable way for them to just sit around and do nothing,” he said.

Gabriel Shipton pointed to expert witness testimony given to Westminster Magistrates’ Court who said Assange would be at risk of suicide if extradition to the US became imminent.

“This scenario is a death sentence for Julian,” he said.

Related: Julian Assange’s extradition from the UK to the US is approved by the Home Secretary

He urged the Australian government to speak more about Assange’s situation, suggesting the case was being handled differently because it involved Australia’s closest ally.

“We are dealing with this accusation or persecution that under any normal circumstances would be seen as totally illegal, and if it was Iran doing this to someone, or China, or Vietnam, the government would be denouncing them,” he said.

“It’s not just about Julian’s life and his well-being, it’s a matter of principle, and if Australia wants to be the kind of country that calls nations on its record of press freedom, they could definitely be more vocal. ”

The Shiptons said Assange was not in good physical or mental condition, having already suffered a stroke in October, fearful he might suffer another. He is being held in a maximum security cell with a telephone and limited visiting rights, in conditions that his wife, Stella Moris, described as “atrocious”.

The US has given assurances that if extradited, Assange would not be subject to “special administrative measures” or detained in a maximum security facility, which the UK Supreme Court ruling described as “solemn commitments offered by one government to another”. .

But advocates remain concerned that Assange will not get a fair trial for the 17 spy counts and one computer misuse charge he faces, which could carry a combined prison sentence of up to 175 years.

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